Jon Jones v Dominick Reyes - Light Heavyweight
The infamous Jon “Bones” Jones returns in his first fight of the year, in the main event. He faces the relatively inexperienced but so far undefeated Dominick “The Devastator” Reyes. Their bout will headline UFC 247, set to take place February 8th 2020 at the Toyota Center, Houston, Texas.
Since Jones’ controversial return to the cage, following his 15-month ban due to a drug violation and resultant no-contest match against Daniel Cormier, he has successfully defended his title three times and stands confident against this new challenger. They are of similar age and the same height but Jones definitely holds a physical advantage in his 7.5-inch greater reach.
Jones is an undeniable UFC legend. A former collegiate American footballer, he combines his athleticism with a deep-rooted background in classical wrestling. This laid the foundation to build a skillset that was well adapted for MMA. He combines his powerful wresting control and submissions with strikes in a way that is both skilful and entertaining.
He has only suffered one loss in his entire career (due to illegal elbows) with a majority 10 Knockout victories, six via Submission and nine on Decision. Jones uses the full range of his skill within every victory, fighting tactically to dominate his opponents, often making use of his expansive reach. He is known for his creativity and explosiveness, implementing strikes such as spinning elbows and flying knees, favouring classical wrestling technique like the suplex and double leg. He is also able to dominate on the ground, demonstrated well by his rematch against Alexander Gustafsson finished by ground and pound, which marked the start of his comeback.
Whilst Jones is already a legend, Reyes is an emerging fighter with far less experience.
Whilst Jones is already a legend, Reyes is an emerging fighter with far less experience. He has certainly made an impression since his pro debut in December 2014, remaining undefeated with a majority of finish victories.
Like Jones he is known as a knockout king with a majority seven victories via Knockout, two Submission and three Decision. Reyes’ background in wrestling and American football also mirrors his opponent. He had had NFL aspirations, playing collegiate football but turning to MMA after not being drafted professionally.
Reyes is unconventionally a Southpaw fighter. His combinations are simple but every strike is powerful, making good use of body kicks and hybrid punches. That being said, he clearly combines his wrestling skills with his strikes and uses this to his advantage. Like Jones, this disorientates his opponents and combined with impeccable timing can be deadly, as demonstrated in his attempted single leg pick that transitioned into the dramatic uppercut knockout of Jared Cannonier. His most recent knockout victory against Chris Weidman was dubbed performance of the night, leading him to his shot at the champion.
The two fighters have a similar background and style and Reyes certainly seems to be on the rise. However, Jones has the advantage of reach to keep Reyes at a distance and the experience to anticipate him, so we believe Jones will likely continue on his winning streak.
Valentina Shevchenko v Katlyn Chookagian - Flyweight
On the other end of the scales in terms of weight, Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko, reigning champion of the Flyweight division, faces Katlyn “Blonde Fighter” Chookagian in the co-main event of the evening. Though the same age, Shevchenko is more experienced than her challenger, holding five more victories. Chookagian however stands a considerable almost 4 inches taller with a 1.5-inch greater reach, so does hold the physical advantage in this match up.
Shevchenko is a power house with a strong background in striking. Prior to her MMA career, she had achieved 50 amateur and pro match wins in K-1, Muay Thai and Kickboxing. Interestingly she has showcased a balanced and varied skillset with a majority seven victories via Submission, five via Knockout and six via Decision.
Her striking background does show she is thorough in her style of fighting. Her implementation of vicious roundhouse kicks and unconventional spinning strikes including spinning elbows and back-kicks is truly distinctive. That roundhouse kick landed perfectly in her recent, and stunning knockout of Jessica Eye, whilst those spinning strikes featured greatly in her defeat of the infamous Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The latter was a decision win which combined her effective striking with consistent takedowns and excellent ground control. Her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills (BJJ) are clear, considering her submission record. She favours the Rear-Naked choke, as seen in her most recent submission victory against Priscila Cachoeira. The reigning champion is on a four-fight winning streak and seems set to continue.
Chookagian is an interesting opponent with the less common striking background of Karate. She has diversified her skillset, is now also a brown belt in BJJ and fights out of Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu team. Chookagian is the less experienced fighter and appears to have less finishing power than her opponent. Her majority of victories have been 10 via decision with one via submission and two via knockout.
In terms of her style, she also has a fierce high roundhouse kick which she uses often to disorientate her opponents. She makes good use of her reach and forces her opponents in to the defensive. Chookagian combines her skills as a striker with her BJJ skills to maintain control. Her ground control was demonstrated well in the decision defeat of Isabelly Varela. Though Shevchenko does appear to be more technical in her style of striking, there is no doubting Chookagian’s skill.
Two women face off for the title. Chookagian holds the considerable physical advantage, suiting her fighting style. However, Shevchenko is the more experienced, technical and balanced fighter with more proven finishing power. It is likely that Shevchenko will remain champion.
Mirsad Bektic v Dan Ige - Featherweight
We also have an interesting Featherweight matchup on the main card. Mirsad Bektic and Dan Ige are the same age and have almost identical records. Bektic is one inch taller and Ige has the one inch reach advantage. An even match up.
Bektic started in Karate, transitioning into MMA and does appear to favour his strikes. He holds a majority six Knockout victories, three via Submission and four by Decision. His hands are his knockout finishers but most recently he was knocked out after a three-fight winning streak and is now trying to come back from his loss to Josh Emmett.
Ige does not come from any specialist background. However, he holds a black belt in BJJ and brown belt in Judo which does come across in his victories. He holds a majority five submission wins, three via knockout and four Decision. He has demonstrated a range of submissions though favours the Rear-Naked choke. Ige is currently on a four-fight winning streak.
Another classic matchup of the striker versus the grappler. Two fighters of similar build but differing styles. Despite Bektic’s dangerous hands, Ige has a stronger recent record and it is likely his winning streak may continue.
Derrick Lewis v Illir Latifi - Heavyweight
Here we have the battle of the heavyweights with Derrick Lewis facing off against Illir Latifi. Lewis is considerably more experienced despite being two years younger than Latifi. He also holds the 5-inch height advantage as well as 5.5-inch reach advantage. It seems that both experience and physicality are in Lewis’ favour.
Lewis has a background in boxing and played collegiate football. He had a troubled upbringing often getting into fights and later serving a prison sentence but MMA, as for many fighters, proved to be his salvation. It’s unsurprising he has a majority 18 knockout wins (mainly through punches) followed by three Submissions and one Decision. Whilst Lewis is coming back from two recent losses, he won his last fight and seems hungry to rise up again.
Conversely Latifi has a wrestling background. Though he is less experienced he has a more balanced record as well as striking style, often using his kicks, with a majority six Knockout victories, four via Submission and four by Decision. Latifi has not fought since August last year and is attempting to come back from a two-fight losing streak.
Whilst Latifi does appear to be the more balanced fighter, Lewis is the more seasoned holding the overwhelming physical advantage. We believe it is likely that Lewis will continue his come back and defeat Latifi.